Archive for the ‘Iran and President Elect Trump’ category

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia

January 14, 2017

Domestic Protests and Trump Inauguration Both Threaten Iran’s Relations with Russia, Iran News Update, January 13, 2017

(Fascinating article. Please see also, Mystery blasts in Damascus: Syria accuses Israel. “The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct.” — DM)

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With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

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On Wednesday, Voice of America News published an article detailing some of the protests that were seen in Iran on the occasion of the state-organized funeral of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Various slogans were heard to be shouted as part of those protests, and Iranian state media muted the television broadcast of the funeral as a result. These included calls for the release of political prisoners including the Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. But the funeral also served as an outlet for critical sentiments about the Iranian regime’s relationship with Russia and the associated interventions in the Syrian Civil War.

VOA News noted that demonstrators could be heard shouting “Death to Russia” and “the Russian embassy is a den of spies,” in mimicry of slogans that have been used against the United States by supporters of the Islamic theocracy. The report suggested that these demonstrations reflected both a change in the Iranian government’s view of Russia and widespread popular anxiety about that change. That anxiety in turn adds to questions about the durability of the Iran-Russia alliance, which some analysts have characterized not as an alliance but as a tenuous “partnership of convenience.”

Although Iran and Russia have both been backing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad virtually since the outset of the civil war aimed at ousting his government, it has frequently been suggested that the two countries’ interests in the region could begin to diverge in a way that threatened their cooperation. Russia’s partnership with Iran was already threatened by its friendly relations with Iran’s bitter enemy, Israel. And as the Syrian Civil War has dragged on, that threat has apparently intensified with Iran providing anti-Israeli Shiite paramilitary Hezbollah a permanent base in Syria.

Leaving aside the different perceptions of this situation by Tehran and Moscow, it has also been suggested that the latter could be more willing to accept a future for Syria in which Assad is not a long-term player. This difference is arguably reflected in the different degrees of hostility with which the two countries pursue moderate Syrian rebels. Although both have been accused of focusing their efforts on those moderate rebels instead of militant groups like ISIL, Russia guaranteed safe passage to the rebels and to civilians in rebel-controlled territory following the recent conquest of Aleppo. Iran, on the other hand, stopped fleeing Syrians at its own checkpoints and demanded concessions from the rebels to secure their release.

If such differences do reflect broader tensions in the Iran-Russia partnership, it is possible that these could be exploited by other interested parties, particularly incoming US President Donald Trump. Since winning election in November, Trump has continued to advocate for improved relations with Russia, while also maintaining a hard line on such issues as the Iran nuclear agreement.

His prospective Cabinet appointees have largely maintained this same line. The Weekly Standardreports that Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has called for a thorough review of the nuclear agreement, in the interest of strengthening its enforcement mechanisms and making sure that Tehran is held accountable to its provisions to a greater extent than it was under the Obama administration. Meanwhile, UPI reports that Trump’s Secretary of Defense pick, James Mattis, underscored the importance of such a review when he referred to Iran as the worst destabilizing force in the Middle East.

Speaking more concretely during his Senate confirmation hearing, Mattis described Iran’s “malign influence” as having grown as a result of recent policies, and suggested that it would be the responsibility of the incoming presidential administration to see that the United States counters that influence, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course this objective, if adopted by the administration itself, will have serious bearing on its strategy with regard to Syria, where improved relations with Russia could also play a part.

Although Mattis also expressed an interest in taking a fairly hard line on Russia, his comments to this effect are at odds with those of the president elect and in any event, they would have to be reconciled with the desire to undermine the power of a Middle Eastern government that could be significantly constrained by Russia.

The Voice of America article indicated that some Iranian officials are noticeably worried about the effects that improved relations between Moscow and Washington could have on Iran’s plans for its Russian partnership. These effects would probably not be limited to the Syrian Civil War but would also include changes in the ways in which the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is understood and enforced.

Earlier this week, the seven parties that had negotiated that agreement met in Geneva, for the last time before US President Barack Obama leaves office and Donald Trump is sworn in. There was some danger of Iran using this meeting to initiate conflict-resolution mechanisms built into the agreement, following comments by the Iranian Foreign Ministry promising “retaliation” and demanding “compensation” from the US for its reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act.

The provisions of that act remain suspended under the JCPOA, but US congressmen almost universally considered it important to keep the law in effect for the next ten years, so as to retain a credible threat of the “snap back” of economic sanctions in the event that Iran is caught cheating on the deal. The Iranians, on the other hand, had insisted that any additional sanctions activity – even unenforced activity – would be regarded as a violation of the spirit of the deal.

However, Reuters reported on Wednesday that Tehran had effectively backed down from its previous threats in the context of the meeting. This apparent change in tone may support a conclusion put forward in a previous Iran News Update article, which suggested that Iran was beginning to reorient its strategies regarding the JCPOA, so as to account for the change in prospective responses under the Trump administration as compared to the Obama administration.

Trump’s own threats to tear up or undermine the nuclear deal are one aspect of this, and they may necessitate that Tehran act differently in order to preserve that deal. Previously, the Iranians themselves had suggested a willingness to tear up the agreement, but some analysts took this to be a ploy to gain further concessions at a time when the Obama White House was paranoid about losing its foreign policy legacy. Some also viewed that ploy as successful, considering that Iran made several perceived violations, including two instances of exceeding heavy water limits, but faced no serious consequences under the deal.

But in times to come, the Iranian regime may have to treat more lightly if it wishes to preserve the agreement, which provided Iran with tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus unspecified benefits from sanctions relief and new international business. The changing circumstances reflect not only the loss of a conciliatory opponent in the Obama administration, but also the prospective loss of a strong international backer in the Russian government.

With the US and Russia strongly at odds, it was understood that Moscow would defend its Iranian partners in disputes over the nuclear deal. But if the US and Russia begin to reconcile and engage in greater political coordination under the Trump administration, this situation could be threatened, especially at a time when Iran’s partnership with Russia is also being openly challenged at home.

Iran Steps Up Threats to Israel, U.S.

January 11, 2017

Iran Steps Up Threats to Israel, U.S., Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, January 11, 2017

(This can’t be accurate. Obama has told us that Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance. Isn’t it odd that he has not told us that the Islamic Republic has “nothing to do with Islam?” — DM)

“En Sha’a Allah [God willing], there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.” — Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, September, 2015.

“If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.” — Ahmad Karimpour, a senior adviser to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit, the Quds Force.

Iran is also attempting to intimidate Donald Trump from taking a tough stance against Iran. Trump ought to be wary of falling into Iran’s tactical game of fear-mongering. For Iran, US concessions and silence in the face of Iran’s threats mean weakness and fear. On the other hand, when Iran sees that the US is taking a robust stance and that the military option is always on the table, Tehran retreats.

As long as Iran’s Supreme Leader is alive and as long as the ruling clerics preserve the political establishment, Iran will maintain the core pillars of its foreign policies and revolutionary principles: these are anchored in anti-Israeli, anti-American and anti-Semitic politics. Iranian politicians across the political spectrum totally agree on these fundamentals.

Iran’s threats against Israel and the US are becoming bolder and louder. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is now repeatedly threatening Israel’s annihilation relatively soon.

According to Iran’s Press TV, Khamenei recently stated:

“The Zionist regime — as we have already said — will cease to exist in the next 25 years if there is a collective and united struggle by the Palestinians and the Muslims against the Zionists.”

In addition, Iranian officials are warning President-elect Donald Trump that if he makes any wrong move, it would lead to a World War, wiping Israel from the face of earth and destroying the smaller Gulf states.

Iranian leaders are adopting their classic tactics and strategy of threatening in advance — and frequently — probably to obtain concessions, push the next US administration to pursue policies of appeasement, and, more importantly, to drive the US to abandon Israel.

In addition, through anti-Israeli and incendiary statements, Khamenei and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are inciting Palestinians and the Muslim world to use violence against the Israeli nation. As a result, Khamenei heightens even further his anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments. Many who follow his beliefs consider it their Islamic duty to fulfill his policies, religious doctrines and prophesies.

Ahmad Karimpour, a senior adviser to the Revolutionary Guards’ elite unit, the Quds Force, previously said that Iran is ready to follow Khamenei’s orders once the leader gives the green light. According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Karimpour said, “If the Supreme Leader’s orders [are] to be executed, with the abilities and the equipment at our disposal, we will raze the Zionist regime in less than eight minutes.”

In order to project himself as the leader of the Muslim world (both Shia and Sunni) and to mobilize opposition to Israel and the US, Khamenei reaffirmed the Islamic Republic’s support for groups that stand against Israel and America:

“Despite being engaged in certain regional issues, the Islamic Republic has always announced explicitly that Palestine is the number one issue in the Muslim world and has fulfilled its obligations in this regard.”

Iran’s leader then went on to lash out at the United States as “the most arrogant [power] and the Great Satan.”

Khamenei is correct that his generals and he have previously threatened Israel’s destruction.

In July 2016, the deputy commander of the (IRGC) warned that Iran possesses tens of thousands of missiles outside Iran to hit Israel. According to Iran’s state-owned news agency Tasnim, General Hossein Salami pointed out:

“Hezbollah has 100,000 missiles ready to hit Israel to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes… today, the grounds for the annihilation and collapse of the Zionist regime are (present) more than ever.”

In addition, Khamenei has already published a 9-point plan on how to destroy Israel. In September 2015, he called on violence and jihad against Israel, until it is completely destroyed:

“En Sha’a Allah [God willing], there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.”

Beside exploiting people’s grievances and inciting violence against Israel, Khamenei primarily relies on Hezbollah, Hamas and the IRGC to pursue his anti-Israel agenda.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, previously disclosed that Iran is lifeline of Hezbollah. In a speech broadcast by the Shiite party’s Al-Manar TV station, he said:

“We do not have any business projects or investments via banks… We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, its income, its expenses, everything it eats and drinks, its weapons and rockets, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have no money in Lebanese banks, neither in the past nor now. We do not transfer our money through the Lebanese banking system…. We totally reject this [U.S.] law until the Day of Judgment. … Even if the law is applied, we as a party and an organizational and jihadi movement, will not be hurt or affected”.

Nasrallah also insisted that, “as long as Iran has money, we have money… Just as we receive the rockets that we use to threaten Israel, we are receiving our money. No law will prevent us from receiving it.”

Notably, there are no differences across Iran’s political spectrum when it comes to opposing and threatening Israel. Moderates, reformist, principalists [in Farsi, Osolgarayan: ultra revolutionary and conservatives] and hardliners all pursue the core anti-Israel pillar of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy.

The so-called moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said previously:

“The Zionist regime (Israel) is a regional base for America and the global arrogance … Disunity and discord among Muslim and terrorist groups in the region … have diverted us from the important issue of Palestine… We stand with the dispossessed Palestinian nation.”

Iranian leaders believe that arming groups and people who oppose Israel is critical. Khamenei tweeted that “I announced and it will absolutely happen that, just like #Gaza, the #WestBank must also be armed…”

Iran is also attempting to intimidate Trump from taking a tough stance against Iran. Trump ought to be wary of falling into Iran’s tactical game of fear-mongering. For Iran, US concessions and silence in the face of Iran’s threats mean weakness and fear. The fact is that whenever the US surrenders to Iran’s threats, Iranian leaders become louder and bolder in their threats. On the other hand, when Iran sees that the US is taking a robust stance and that military option is always on the table, Tehran retreats.

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Finally, at least as long as Iran’s Supreme Leader is alive, and as long as the ruling clerics preserve the political establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran will maintain the core pillars of its foreign policies and revolutionary principles: these are anchored in anti-Israel, anti-American and anti-Semitic politics. Iranian politicians across the political spectrum totally agree on these fundamentals.

Iranian Official Reveals ‘Uncovering’ of Major US Cyber-Attack Plot — Failing to Mention Info Obtained From American Docu-Drama

December 13, 2016

Iranian Official Reveals ‘Uncovering’ of Major US Cyber-Attack Plot — Failing to Mention Info Obtained From American Docu-Drama, AlgemeinerRuthie Blum, December 12, 2016

maxresdefault-4-1024x576The slide of a clip in which ‘Zero Days’ is discussed. Photo: YouTube.

As The Algemeiner has reported extensively, Iranian officials have been issuing daily threats against Washington — particularly since last month’s election of Donald Trump to the presidency — about the Islamic Republic’s “fierce” response to any American breaches of the JCPOA, alongside muscle-flexing about the quality and quantity of its long-range missiles. Two weeks ago, the Senate passed a motion to extend the Iran Sanctions Act for an additional 10 years, which spurred the regime in Tehran to warn President Barack Obama not to approve the move.

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An Iranian Civil Defense Organization official announced on Monday that the United States is plotting a major cyber-attack on the Islamic Republic that will be more dangerous and wreak far more havoc that the Stuxnet virus, the semi-official state news agency Fars reported.

Addressing a conference in Tehran, Alireza Karimi said, “At present, the US has launched a project named Nitro Zeus with the aim of attacking Iran’s defense and telecommunication infrastructures.”

Karimi failed to mention, however, that he was actually referring to information revealed in “Zero Days,” an Alex Gibney docu-drama that premiered in July at the Berlin International Film festival. The film claimed that Nitro Zeus was developed as a backup plan in the event that Western efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program by diplomatic means failed.

According to a description of the movie in the Tech Times, the major operation “took on great urgency as the [US] government believed that Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would launch a strike on the nuclear facilities of Iran, a move that would draw in the United States into the hostilities that [would] follow.”

However, the film claims that Nitro Zeus, the code name given to the mass malware operation that cost many millions of dollars, was shelved when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — otherwise known as the nuclear deal — was signed between six world powers and Iran last year in July 2015.

In an extensive piece about the film, Newsweek wrote:

Gibney traces the development of Stuxnet to the last years of George W. Bush’s administration. It was a major operation, participants tell him, involving the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. Cyber Command. On the Israeli side, it involved the Mossad…and Unit 8200, its military signals intelligence division. Britain’s General Communications Headquarters, its signals intelligence corps, also played a role. After the code for Stuxnet was written, it was tested both in the US and Israel on centrifuges identical to those used by Iranians. When CIA officials showed Bush the shards of a centrifuge that Stuxnet had destroyed, the president gave the OK to use it against Iran. The era of cyberwarfare had officially begun.

The participants who confirmed Stuxnet’s American and Israeli origins did so anonymously and off-camera, for fear of violating strict prohibitions against discussing classified information. That’s why Gibney used an actor…through [whom he] breaks his news in the film. “Stuxnet was just part of a much larger Iranian mission,” the character says… “Nitro Zeus would take out Iran’s strategic communications, air defenses, power grid, civilian communications, transportation and financial system…Nitro Zeus was the plan for a full-scale cyberwar with no attribution.”

Fars reported that Karimi’s remarks about Nitro Zeus came on the heels of a statement by the Civil Defense Organization chief, Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian, who boasted his office’s capability to “defuse cyberattacks and cultural invasions.”

As The Algemeiner has reported extensively, Iranian officials have been issuing daily threats against Washington — particularly since last month’s election of Donald Trump to the presidency — about the Islamic Republic’s “fierce” response to any American breaches of the JCPOA, alongside muscle-flexing about the quality and quantity of its long-range missiles. Two weeks ago, the Senate passed a motion to extend the Iran Sanctions Act for an additional 10 years, which spurred the regime in Tehran to warn President Barack Obama not to approve the move.